Report Calls for Fairer Treatment of Muslims in Media in the Face of Negative Coverage
“British Media’s Coverage of Muslims & Islam (2018-2020)” is one of the most extensive pieces of statistical research done on how Muslims and Islam are reported in the British media and reveals through 100’s of examples the sheer scale of negative reporting associated with Muslims in the UK.
- A landmark report by the Centre for Media Monitoring analysing over 48,000 online articles and 5,500 broadcast clips, has revealed almost 60% of online media articles and 47% of television clips associate Muslims and/or Islam with negative aspects or behaviour.
- Ten case studies are presented showing Muslims misrepresented, defamed and libelled in major publications, with damages paid in 9 of the cases, alongside public apologies.
- The report authors argue that high journalistic standards are crucial for our free media, one that treats Muslims fairly and does not seek to wilfully misrepresent Muslim communities.
Responding to the findings, the editor of the Sunday Times, Emma Tucker said, “I welcome this report – in the full knowledge that it contains criticisms of the press, my own paper included.”
Alison Philips, editor in chief of The Mirror, said, “This report by the Centre for Media Monitoring shows how much we as journalists must question ourselves and the work we are producing in relation to reporting of Muslims and Islam.”
The report points to some improvements in the treatment of Muslims by highlighting positive and fair coverage of Muslims in the media, including the BBC’s reporting of the persecution Uighur Muslims, The Sun’s featuring of Asma Shuweikh as a “hero of the week” and the prominence of Muslim women clapping for the NHS on the front page of the Daily Telegraph.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s Centre for Media Monitoring monitored 34 media outlets via their online websites and 38 television channels (including all regional channels) between Oct 2018 – Sept 2019.
- Almost 60% of articles across all publications were identified as associating negative aspects and behaviour with Muslims or Islam.
- Over 1 in 5 articles had a primary focus on Terrorism/Extremism.
- Right-leaning and religious publications have the greater percentage of articles demonstrating a bias against Muslim belief or behaviour OR which generalise or misrepresent Muslim belief or behaviour.
- The themes under which articles are categorised show there is a greater bias against Muslims and Islam under the topics of Religion, Terrorism/Extremism.
- National broadcasters have a higher percentage of Bias against Muslims and/or Islam as opposed to regional broadcasters.
- 47% of all clips showed Muslims and/or Islam in a manner which presented negative aspects and/or behaviour.
- Right-wing pundits were on many occasions left unchallenged when making generalisations against Muslims including promoting falsehoods.
The Director of MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring, Rizwana Hamid said: “This latest report does not seek to place blame on any newspaper or broadcaster nor on any individual journalist or reporter. CfMM remains committed to a free media which reports without fear or favour and holds those in positions of power to account. However, it is time for the industry to admit that, on occasion and too often when it comes to Muslims and Islam, it gets things wrong. Media professionals should welcome this scrutiny, and put in place these recommendations to improve journalistic standards.”
Report author Faisal Hanif states: “While neither Muslims nor Islam should be immune from criticism or inquiry, where warranted, we do expect this to be done fairly and with due care, without resorting to well-worn tropes and generalisations. This study is valuable to both the academic community, and more so to newsrooms and journalists, and will in some way go towards improving reporting and coverage of Muslims and their beliefs in the coming years.”